MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, Mobile County dispatchers are sharing important information that people should know when dialing 911. WKRG provided an inside look at the challenges these true front-line responders face to get people in distress the help they need in a timely fashion.
“Mobile 911, what’s the address of your emergency,” said 911 dispatcher, Nikki Dunn.
So far in 2023, the Mobile County dispatch center has answered over 87,000 calls, but few people on the other end of that call know just how it all works or how important that question is.
That question alone can be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
“We don’t know your specific location all of the time unless you’re calling from a landline because everyone has cell phones, and it can hit any tower in any place,” said Dunn. “So we have to have you to help us to find out where you are, otherwise, it’s just estimating.”
That may be one of the biggest misconceptions of a 911 call.
Our local dispatchers want to urge people to be attentive when calling in and to be prepared to answer all of their questions.
“It is very important,” said Dunn. “It saves time, it gets you help faster.”
When calling 911 in the heat of an emergency, it can seem frustrating at times when repeating information but dispatchers say there’s a very important reason for that.
“Stay on the line, okay? I’m going to connect us over to medical,” a dispatcher said on the phone.
“When you call in and we ask you for your location, be prepared for another agency to ask you again because we just want to make sure that it’s the right location, right phone number, just in case you hang up,” said Dunn.
Luckily, there are several resources like a program called “What3Words” that works with a system called RapidSOS to help our dispatchers locate people who don’t know exactly where they are or for places without a street address and you don’t need an app to use it.
“It is something that we can send to their phone and with their permission, it’ll allow us access to get the three words of their location,” said Operations Manager, Kristi Stamnes. “Those three words are unique to all over the globe and once we put those three words in, it gives us a precise location so we can find them.”
The Mobile County dispatch center is currently working on getting a new tool “video to 911” where people can pull out their cell phone, record an incident and send it in to dispatchers through a link so they can determine the kind of resources needed on a scene.
“Text to 911” is already available.